Greece’s Parliament has approved a labor reform bill that has sparked controversy and led to protests by labor unions.
The bill aims to allow employees to opt for a longer working day in exchange for time off, with the aim of increasing the productivity of the Greek economy. Its main provisions will provide the introduction of a new digital card, a new independent body as labor inspectorate, a 14-day paid leave for new fathers, the settlement of working hours by application of the employee, new measures for transparency between trade unions and employers and a permanent end to employment deemed illegal by the courts. It further plans to alienate trade unions from partisan ties and employers, set new measures to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace and provide a platform for the protection of trade union rights. Most controversially, it clarifies the branches of work that would be allowed to operate on Sundays. Finally, online workers will be given the right to disconnect as soon as the working day ends, unless otherwise agreed.
According to centre-right Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the bill will lay the foundations for transparency between employer and employee and allow the means of production to determine the terms for their effective cooperation. Further, the introduction of a new digital working card will bring an end to unpaid overtime and black labour as well as sexist violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Opposition to the bill was sparked from all other parliamentary parties, with leader of the opposition Alexis Tsipras labeling the Prime Minister the “arch-bishop of populism.” Communist party leader Dimitris Koutsioumpas labeled the bill a “final blow” to the eight-hour working day and labor union action whilst the leader of the pan-European Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM 25) Yanis Varoufakis claimed that the party is “wholeheartedly involved in the frontal conflict with those who decide to take legal action against strikes,” a provision that can be found in the bill. Even the far-right party Greek Solution found itself in agreement with its left and far-left counterparts, heavily concerned with the abolition of the labor inspectorate, and the denial of the workers’ “fundamental right” to strike.
Despite opposition to the bill from all parties but the ruling New Democracy, it passed Wednesday by a vote of 158-142, an oft-seen scenario enabled by the parties’ absolute majority in Parliament.